Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sugarcoat Sunday no. 5

This is a story of an 18-year old girl who gave up medical school to pursue a different dream. 

Mathai was a part of the blind auditions in The Voice season 2, even though she's far from being an experienced singer. Actually, she was on her way to becoming a nurse and, most probably, continue studying to become a doctor like her parents. Given that already very promising path, she made a different turn and laid all her current plans on the line.

Here’s her blind auditions video. Witness her talent and undeniable charm:

This is what happens when you follow your heart. You reach your dreams, you make a god like Adam Levine say, ‘I love you’ and you make a crazy, frustrated singer stare at this:

..while belting out like she's in the shower! *Sorry to those who were too unfortunate to have heard me sing.*

I found her story inspiring. I hope you do, too! :)

Life Lottery

I am a very lucky girl. This does not apply to raffles, lotto and gambling, unfortunately. Although, I won three years in a row in our firm’s Christmas party raffle, so you can say I’m pretty lucky in those stuff, too

I am lucky. By that I mean, in life’s most crucial lotteries, I got the winning tickets right in the palm of my hands.

Unbelievably loving parents: check!
Amazing sets of friends: check!
An extremely patient, understanding, secure, not to mention too much of a spoiler, boyfriend: check!

All of the above words sound sugarcoated. Life couldn’t be that perfect, yes. There are also days I forget how fortunate I am to have been blessed with these people, especially when life hits me hard. But during the ups and, most importantly, the ordinary days, I can look at my life from an outsider’s point of view and feel genuinely grateful for every single IMPORTANT character in my life story. I emphasized ‘important’ because I’ve also met a handful of mean, conceited people but never fully allowed them in.

Currently, I am buried deep under a tower of adult decisions I have to make. Hours are spent on useless worrying, instead of being carefree. I don’t have a clue about how certain things will unravel for me this year and I’m the biggest scardey-cat when it comes to uncertainty. I am in a state you can call anything but steady. But despite life’s mysteries I am yet to solve, I’m sure about something:

I am with the very people I’m meant to face this unexplainable, sometimes funny, sometimes cruel, borderline sunny/rainy adventure we call life.

I can’t thank the heavens enough for bringing every soul into my journey. Thank you, lucky stars!

And thank You, of course. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sugarcoat Sunday no. 4

I am still on cloud 9.

It's the boy's birthday and I am clinging on to my mental picture of how genuinely happy he looked today.
The happiness that making him happy brings sure is enough to motivate me to leave the bed early tomorrow and hum love songs on the way to work. But.... sprinkling more heart-shaped candies over this sweet, sweet day wouldn't hurt. :)

Girls and boys, sharing with you a song that is sure to melt your heart.

I do by Susie Suh

I just wanna love you when the going's tough
I just wanna hold you when you're not enough
I just wanna give you everything I got
I do, I do

I just wanna fold you up into my arms
I just wanna listen to your beating heart
I just wanna love you just because I do
I do, I do

Listening to this makes me daydream of my wedding dance. SOMEDAY.
If you have no picture to associate with every YOU in this song just yet, I tell you, it is worth aspiring for.

Lovelovelove! :))

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Solidarity in Silence

Karis- Holy Week Silent Retreat, 2012

"If there was anything to be gained from this whole experience, it is learning how to live and enjoy the moment,
basking in the warmest company of your own person, and your God more so.
And savoring the experience for all its worth.
This journey was not only about the number silent stares of chat shared with few co-retreatants, or personal self-videos recorded just for divert.

It wasn’t just about the many firsts achieved - personally or collectively as a silent circle.
Rather, it was the whole idea of sharing and solidarity… in the most unusual of silences that makes this trip a memorable one for keep”.

I don't know their stories but these people feel like family. 
Sending high fives to heaven for these wonderful souls. :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Karis: A Grace-filled Experience

Call it a quarter-life crisis or just another wake up call, but for the past few months, I tend to beat myself up for being passive about my faith. I belong in a family that goes to church every Sunday morning and prays the rosary every Sunday night, I went to Catholic schools all my life, and I have always been sure of my beliefs. I recognize that religion, although not perfect, is important in guiding one’s faith. I believe in the Church, in priests being disciples of Jesus, in practicing religious traditions.

I BELIEVE. No amount of doubt whatsoever. But I was craving for the emotional depth that should go hand in hand with this thing we call faith. Like how we say it in Filipino, ‘tagos sa puso’. That, that was what I was craving for.

In time for this year’s Lenten season, I was hoping to do something that could help me in my dilemma. Attending a retreat was my first option. After a quick search in Google, I chanced upon a silent retreat in Tagaytay. I knew that I didn’t want to attend a usual retreat like the ones we had in school. Those were too preachy for me and I might not be interested in their chosen topics. So the silent retreat, being individually directed, seemed to be the best choice. I signed up knowing there wouldn’t be any “talks” from priests/lecturers, but I didn’t realize there would be no “talks”, AT ALL.

It was a SILENT RETREAT, as clearly stated in the invitation. But aren’t all retreats supposed to be a silent, solemn experience? And I have attended retreats before, so I got this.

I thought wrong.

Upon arriving Wednesday night at Karis Retreat House, we were briefed that a silent retreat demands TOTAL SILENCE. We were not allowed to talk, not even look each other in the eyes. We are encouraged to bow our heads while walking to avoid eye contact and unintended conversations. Any important concern, we could write on a huge whiteboard placed in the middle of our common area. On the other hand, there were no rules regarding personal things. We were all adults, anyway. Any thing/gadget we think could help us make the experience meaningful was allowed. 

The only part of the day, aside from the mass, when we’re allowed to talk was during individual consultations. It was an individually-directed Ignatian retreat. There were 2 priests and 4 brothers- all Jesuits. 4 retreatants were assigned to each. So throughout the journey, we had been very well-guided by our respective retreat directors. Aside from our specific schedules, we could also approach them anytime during the day, depending upon their availability. 

Initially, I thought we would be given a daily schedule, like something that will guide us on an hourly basis. It turned out, we only had a schedule for the consultation and the mass. Other than those, we were left to decide what to do with our time. More than not talking, this was the part where I struggled. I am used to planning my day, in being able to predict, even roughly, what I needed to get done.  There, all they told us was to spend our time doing one of three things: praying, reading the Bible and resting. That was it. 

There was a feeling of discomfort in my system. I wasn't used to what was required of me. I felt agitated. But I really wanted this experience to be meaningful. So after having my breakfast, alone, without uttering a single word, I fully surrendered myself.

The key to being able to reflect and pray properly was to find the most comfortable place. Let me show you where I spent the longest days of my life:

1.       Rocking Chair

This was my favorite spot for contemplating. I filled an entire notebook while staying there. I learned so many things about myself, mostly flaws, and my faith, mostly inadequacies. It was like having a no-holds-barred interview with myself. All issues I decided to bury, all inner conflicts I ignored, they all came crashing to me and I welcomed them with an open heart. 

2.       Prayer Room

The prayer room had mats, instead of wooden benches, to allow us to be in our most comfortable position. This was my sacred place for praying, for opening up myself to God, for letting Him know what I realized and felt while contemplating, for lifting up my concerns. Almost all of my most touching moments happened in that ordinary looking space. There was even a time I felt too tired, while praying, that I had fallen asleep right there. It was funny I remember telling Him, 'Lord, pagod na talaga ko. Matutulog lang ako sa sandali. Wait lang po.' Opening up yourself, a lot of times a day, can sure be draining.

3.       Outside

Sometimes, while contemplating, I get this heavy feeling that was impossible to contain inside. Since I wasn’t allowed to speak, I released these emotions by walking. We were allowed to roam outside the vicinity, as long as we leave a note in the whiteboard. The serene view helped a lot in walking- off negative emotions.

The entire experience was overwhelming and, for most parts, far too personal to share in detail. My self-discoveries, especially my consultations with my retreat director, I don't think I will be able to share with anyone in its entirety. There are chunks I would forever keep in my heart.

After 4 days, this sums up the part of my takeaways I am very much willing to share:

When we were younger we learned that God is present everywhere: in the streets, inside our rooms, in schools, etc. One doesn’t have to be inside a church to feel His presence. Although this is a very positive message, it also has a downside. This made us regard praying as an effortless act. We make the sign of the cross, utter a few words, spend a couple of minutes and that was it. That’s our formula. I must admit I’m guilty of doing this my whole life. I wanted to hear God but I never gave him the chance to talk to me. I never fully opened up my heart to Him.

Four days of total silence and a heart in complete surrender made me realize that although God can be found anywhere, I can only find Him, if I do so with all of my heart. It was only in this retreat where I learned how to talk WITH Him, and not just talk TO Him. It is impossible to describe it clearly, but there were moments while praying that I felt like I heard Him. Remember the scene in Eat, Pray, Love where Liz was in the bathroom, praying helplessly and then she heard her own voice commanding her to go back to bed? It was a lot like that. It was still my own voice but I knew the words weren’t from me because I didn’t like what I heard. Those words were the last thing I wanted to do, or the last thing I wanted to admit to myself. Sometimes, I also get His message during the individual consultation. It was as if He knew exactly what I needed to hear. God is just, indeed, amazing.

All my life I thought I knew Him. This journey made me realize we were sort of in a long distance relationship. We had one, but it was lacking an intimate connection. My faith had been a leap in the dark. It was like running with my eyes closed, fully trusting there will always be solid ground to step on. But faith shouldn’t be like that; my relationship with Him shouldn't be like that. I have to know Him, feel Him and develop faith that is grounded on certainty. You cannot love a person you don’t know. And the very foundation of faith is love.

In the ordinariness of silence, I found something extraordinary.

I found *points up*.

Karis is grace in Greek. :)
This place is forever etched in my memory.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Rejoice- I don’t think I've ever used this word in a normal conversation. Actually, I think I don't use this word, at all. Well, maybe with the exception of using it to refer to a brand of shampoo, which isn't the same thing as using it for what it truly means.

Until I experienced my very first spiritual encounter with the Lord.

Yeah, yeah, sounds all “holy”. I am not one of those people riding on the Easter wave, trying to sound pure and religious. To be honest, I have never felt more flawed in my life. At the same time, I have never felt more loved and accepted, and, as a result, happier despite obvious imperfections.

I am fresh out of a 4-day silent retreat. I am still in the process of trying to slice this one big piece of juicy lemon so I can squeeze the wedges exhaustively. It doesn’t even end there. I still have to measure how much of the juice I am willing to share. But at this point, I couldn’t forget about the word ‘rejoice’, so I'll share a tiny piece of the retreat from there.

If you look it up in the dictionary, it means to feel joyful or delighted. Very simple and straightforward. But our generation seems to consider this word archaic, too old school to be used. But in my moments of deep prayer, moments when I felt His presence, it was the only word I found fitting to describe the experience.

Four days of complete silence, hours of praying and meditation, precious minutes of individual consultation with very understanding and honest Jesuit brothers- I didn’t like everything I discovered about myself; I don’t agree with some of the messages He sent me. In fact, right now, I still have this small amount of reservation in my heart regarding His will. But this is how I know that it was Him guiding me throughout. Had it only been myself in those prayers, I wouldn’t have realized my deepest fears and flaws. Had I been alone in this journey, I would have knelt down all day and begged for my own selfish will. It is easier to bury inner conflicts and forget about a higher purpose. But He has his ways of sending His message. And He sends it with a lot of love.

Last morning in Karis. :)

I felt Him, and my heart rejoiced in His slightest touch. Nothing can take that away from me.

Happy Easter, everyone! Rejoice in His goodness. :))

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Window to Our Friendship

a.k.a. Ang mga Magkukumare sa Bintana 

I love these girls to bits! :))

Sugarcoat Sunday no. 3

Simple and effective.
Have a blessed and meaningful Holy Week ahead!

A writer. Who? Me?

Receiving compliments about my writing has always been awkward. I never know how to respond. A ‘thank you’ sounds too forward; dismissing it seems hypocritical. Most of the time, I move swiftly to another topic and avoid any chance of this blog ever being brought up.

I already wrote about my dream of being a lawyer. I shamelessly wrote about my goal of becoming a partner of a firm. Both are now safely locked into the ‘not for me’ dreams chest. But about becoming a writer? No, I don’t think I ever admitted that.

Being a writer has always been a distant ambition. I graduated with a degree that is too technical we are required to pass a government exam before practicing it. I belong in a field that mainly requires the use of intellect and logic, and religiously abiding by the rules. No offense to my colleagues but, sometimes, it can get really boring.

Writing saves me from the humdrum of everyday grind.

I don’t know if this is worth a space in the vast and judging place that is the world wide web, but I am making it known now:

I want to be a writer. I want to write something worth reading. I want to collect words, tie them in a string and put it around everyone’s wrists, so they can feel me with every beat of their pulse.

I want to be a writer. Not necessarily a celebrated one. I just want to write and create and pour my heart out and let words drip out of my fingertips. And when someone calls me a writer, not even compliment me but just label me with that word, I don’t want to shy away.

Yes, that last one; I would love that. 

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